In a time when all medicines weren’t readily available or affordable, the Black community found other ways to cure rashes, break fever and survive the common cold. Now, years later, those homemade remedies are still passed down from one generation to the next as if they were created just yesterday.
From popsicles to Robitussin, fever to headache, Black Enterprise takes a look at some of the most bizarre, life-saving remedies. And while some methods have never actually been scientifically proven to work, we dare you to tell your grandmother otherwise!
A Splash Of Peppermint
If you always wondered why that elderly lady at church kept a purse full of peppermints, there’s a chance she’s dealing with high blood pressure. For some time, Black people have believed peppermint and peppermint candy to act as an aid in fighting the often-unnoticed illness.
A study conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center found that “consuming peppermint tea may help lower your blood pressure.” While the University’s research is still preliminary, the Black community has seen peppermint and its candies as the perfect hypertension remedy.
Given this, Ms. Alice in third pew may have been taming more than just her breath all these years.
While flour is the heart of a good kitchen; browned flour is central to good gravy. But brown flour isn’t just used for its soulful flavor in the cooking world. Best known for its use in America’s Third Coast (the South), the colored cooking starch has been used for some time in the Black community to treat rashes and sores.
People say that the of browning flour in a skillet, without any fat, and sprinkling the substance on an infected area helps fleshy infections absorb moisture, which is typically a major cause of rashes and sores. For years, the browned flour remedy has been used to help cure diaper rashesand boils and blisters that build up on the skin
Some would suggest making a batch of browned flour to have on hand for the unexpected rashes that pop up from time to time.
Ginger has long been used as a health remedy for years. The 18 chemicals contained in the root of the Earth-grown plant help the body fight off infections and settle nausea as it arises. Alpha-pinene, one of the plants’ many chemicals, is used to “effectively loosen mucus within bronchial tubes;” Beta-carotene “protects the body against free radical damage and reduces the risk of cancer;” Caffeic acid “limits pain and inflammation and improves the motility of the intestines;” and Farnesol “destroys the cells of malignant growths or tumors.”
Ginger roots can be cut up and used in many forms, including liquid, it can also be frozen and last for quite some time. Generations of Blacks have found it much easier to keep Ginger ale on hand to sooth stomachaches, nausea and indigestion.
A Good Shot of Whiskey
A shot of Whiskey—Rum if you’re from the islands—mixed in with a cup of tea is something Black grandmothers have often recommended to those who suffer from colds and chest congestion. This remedy is typically referred to as a Hot Toddy, and often uses herbal tea, honey and other organic reliefs to knock out a cold or standing infection.
Whether the alcohol actually helps or just makes you forget your symptoms isn’t known. But either way, subscribers to this cure continue to go back to it time and time again.
Although Vick’s VapoRub suggests applying its topical ointment to the chest and throat, this staple of Black medicine cabinets has been applied directly to the nose almost since its creation over 100 years ago.
Popsicles & A Warm Bath
There are plenty of fever solutions available on the market, but there age-old Black remedies that have made children smile for years, or at least partly smile. Popsicles and baths have been a go-to method to reduce fever for grandparents across the country. As most kids surely love the sugary remedy for its taste, the cool substance helps kids—and adults—from suffering dehydration while sick, and while not necessarily scientifically proven, is thought to temporarily reduce fever—or at least provide the illusion of such.
The use of aloe—from an aloe plant—on cuts dates back thousands of years, but the Black community has kept little Aloe Vera plants in their homes for generations. Use of the plant within the community quite possibly stems from the plant’s origins, as it’s grown in several places including the Caribbean and South Africa.
Reports show the application of aloe helps heal burns, cuts, skin conditions and diabetes, though more study is needed to confirm the latter. The plant’s various uses have caused families to keep Aloe as a mainstay in the medicine cabinet.
Let’s face it; Robitussin is known as grandparents’ No. 1 cure for…well…everything! If you have a cold: Robitussin! If you have a sore throat: Robitussin! If you have a headache: Robitussin! The liquid medicine has been the most sought after cure to all things illness since any kid today can remember. The drug is even referenced in Chris Rock’s former sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris. It’s a global phenomenon in the Black community.
In actuality, the chemicals used in Robitussin—Dextromethorphan HBr (cough suppressant). Guaifenesin (expectorant). Phenylephrine HCl (nasal decongestant)— truly do fight many of the symptoms people experience when getting sick. But while many grandparents would like to believe this remedy may be the cure to everything, Robitussin still has its limits.